HOSPITAL parking charges sparked fury from one patient after he paid for more than 200 hours in fees and then was fined for being six minutes late.
Andrew Robertson, who was diagnosed in 2008 with Wegeners Granulomatosis – an incurable immune disorder – paid to park his vehicle in a car park near to the University Hospital of North Durham, in time for his regular check-up with his consultant.
Andrew, of Great Lumley, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, paid for his ticket minutes before his appointment but was kept waiting when the consultant was half an hour late.
The engineer – who had been sent to have pressure tests on his ears – was unable to get to his car to put another ticket on it and received a fine for £60.
The 39-year-old said: “I was cheesed off when I received the fine. It’s expensive when you have to pay for parking, as well as prescriptions. I never asked to have this disease.
“It’s not just me who feels the anger of parking. It can add a huge strain on people when they have someone ill in hospital. The last thing they want is to pay a car parking fine.”
His anger comes after Health Secretary Andy Burnham last month launched a government investigation into the issue. North Durham MP Kevan Jones has now written to the family to tell them he has spoke to the Chief Executive of the NHS Foundation Trust asking him to look into the matter.
Andrew has paid more than £160 in parking tickets over the last year – sometimes having to park for a whole day – when he attended gruelling chemotherapy sessions, to combat the aggressive form of arthritis. His appointments have only recently been reduced from weekly to three-monthly.
Andrew’s mum Margaret Robertson, 63, said: “I just feel so strongly about it not just for Andrew but for anyone else who is being charged.
“The expense of parking is horrendous without having to pay a fine on top.
“I have never met anyone so determined as Andrew. He could have stayed off work during his treatment but he didn’t, he’s really conscientious.”
A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust is sorry to hear of the problems Mr Robertson has encountered while parking in a private car park near to the hospital.
To help support patients who require regular, long-term treatment or relatives and friends visiting patients in departments such as ITU we have a car parking code in place for the hospital’s own public car park which includes different exemptions and reductions in charges. There is a car park desk and attendants on site to help with any queries or for information about the policy.”
Now, in an eight-week consultation period, Mr Burnham’s review will ask people their views on proposals to abolish charges for some out-patients as well as in-patients.
The Health Secretary also said he wanted to introduce parking permits to allow friends and relatives to visit in-patients for free.
Under the current NHS regime, in-patients and out-patients alike can pay up to £20 per day to park their cars on hospital premises.
The payments meant that, over the last two years, 12 hospitals in the North East raked in an incredible £8m.